Superhero fiction is taking over anime, starting with My Hero Academia and I love it
Superhero fiction is at an all-time high in pop culture right now. Marvel and DC are trying to put out as many films and TV shows as they can, while comic books are experiencing a huge surge in interest. Even in anime, western-style superheroes are gaining huge popularity. Titles such as One Punch Man, Gatchaman Crowds, and now Weekly Shounen Jump have teamed up with the critically-acclaimed Studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, Space Dandy) to bring us the next big hit in superhero anime: My Hero Academia.
Several years ago, superpowers known as “quirks” suddenly began appearing in the world of Academia.
It is now estimated that 80% of the human population have at least one quirk, leading to the idea of “superhero” as a legitimate profession. However, Izuku Midoriya is one of that 20% that doesn’t have a single quirk to his name, earning him the ridicule of his classmates. Despite this, he still dreams of getting into UA High, a high school for superheroes, and idolizes the world’s #1 hero and symbol of peace, All Might. One day, Midoriya happens to encounter All Might in the flesh, whom he eventually learns is looking for a successor, and All Might chooses Midoriya himself to pass on his unique, inheritable quirk, finally giving Midoriya the chance he needs to become a great hero.
Right out of the gate, My Hero Academia knows exactly how to excel at taking western superhero tradition and giving it the typical Shounen Jump spin.
The world that it creates feels massive and ever-expanding, filled with hundreds of unique superpowers that go beyond the standard sets we’re use to. While we’ve only been given a small taste of it so far, this is still just the beginning of what will hopefully be an extensive superhero epic, with the second season already having been confirmed.
While I will admit that Academia isn’t doing anything innovative, it’s still a really fun experience for fans of action and superheroes, and it does a great job at building hype throughout the series.
Even in the more stereotypical high school scenes, the superhero element gives it the edge it needs to stand out and keep the story interesting, especially when they start training with their powers at school.
Midoriya himself sits at the heart of this series and has a really solid character arc so far. While it’s fairly predictable that’s he going to eventually rise to the challenges presented to him and overcome them, the journey to that point is incredibly exciting and heartfelt. Midoriya’s fanboy obsession with superheroes and his desire to know as much about them as possible really got me invested in him, as characters that have something they’re super passionate about are almost always my favourites. His headstrong determination and subconscious reflex to be the first into battle are definitely key elements to becoming a great hero, and they make the payoff for his struggles extremely cathartic and satisfying.
The rest of the characters surrounding Midoriya also have their own interesting stories to bring to the table. While Midoriya’s rival, Bakugo, seems extremely abrasive and mean-spirited at first, they do a good job of exploring how he got to be that way and how his relationship with Midoriya has made him start to crack and go a little too far over the edge, leading to a heated rivalry between them. All Might also stands out as a really great mentor character, and while I hesitate to reveal any more about him due to spoilers, any time he shows up for a fight is some of the most hyped stuff I’ve ever seen in an anime. The rest of the students that Midoriya interacts with also get their fair share of screen time, especially during the villain fight near the end of the season.
However, I will say that, at this point, the villains are just a little bit weak.
While they are extremely menacing and often very brutal, the core villains are introduced fairly late in the season and a bit later in the anime than they are in the manga (which I’ve read all of what’s been released in the US so far). Because of this, they felt a little bit too disposable, instead of like the big baddies they’re supposed to be. Obviously there’s still a ton of content to come later, but for this season in particular, the villains’ motivations aren’t quite interesting enough yet. However, the fights they take part in do make up for this with how intense they get.
The animation by Studio Bones is easily some of the best, if not the very best, to air this season.
Striking and unique character designs, vivid color palettes, detailed background art, and some of the most epic fights scenes to ever come out of this studio make this nothing short of an animation spectacle. It should be noted, however, that while Bones does have their name on it and it does have their trademark animation style, a good bulk of the work was also given to Sunrise studio 3, which was responsible for Gundam Build Fighters. This blending of top-notch talents results in some of the best animation to air this year.
As expected from FUNimation, the dub so far is definitely solid.
Justin Briner pulls off Midoriya pretty well without losing too much of his original personality, and Clifford Chapin plays Bakugo with just as much rage as the original. The cast is also filled with veterans as well. Chris Sabat absolutely nails the power and intensity of All Might, and finally hearing Luci Christian in a dub again (as Midoriya’s friend, Uraraka), definitely makes me really excited to go back and watch the whole dub once it’s finished.
The soundtrack by Yuuki Hayashi (Haikyuu!!, Kiznaiver) is the cherry on top of the cake, and it’s probably his best work to date.
This soundtrack is about as traditional to superhero style as they come, in particular with All Might’s theme immediately bringing images of classic Superman to mind. There are so many memorable tracks scattered throughout this series, most of them building up hype as much as possible to give the climactic moments of each battle unparalleled levels of intensity.
My Hero Academia is the kind of show that I’ve been waiting to see in anime forever, as evidenced by my preview article about why this series totally deserves the hype it gets.
It isn’t perfect yet and has a lot more story to tell, but what we have so far is certainly something special and definitely a frontrunner for Anime of the Season.
My Hero Academia is licensed by FUNimation and is available from them for streaming, with physical releases to be announced some time in the near future.
Final Score: 8/10